Data Protection Tips to Keep Your Company Secure from Cyber-Attacks
As a small to medium-sized business owner, it is important that you take certain precautions to protect your business’s data against a potential cyber-attack. Oftentimes, small business owners do not worry about their cybersecurity as they believe that they won’t be a target. However, while viral stories in the news would lead you to believe that major data breaches only happen at large corporations and government agencies, the fact is that small businesses are most at risk of falling subject to a data breach. In fact, a study conducted by the SEC found that 60% of cyber-attacks were targeted at small businesses.
Unfortunately, small businesses are often considered an easy target for cybercriminals because these businesses are often under-protected, either due to budget constraints or a false belief that their business isn’t at risk. However, not only are small businesses more likely to suffer from a data breach, but they are more likely to be greatly impacted by such a breach, as cyber-attacks can be extremely costly with the average cyber-attack costing businesses $200,000 in 2019. For many small businesses, such a loss can be devastating. In fact, over half of small businesses that suffer a data breach close within six months due to insurmountable losses. This makes it critical that you take certain steps to protect your company’s data in order to prevent, and reduce the impact of, a potential cyber-attack. Here is a look at just a few data protection steps that all small business owners should take in 2020.
Train Your Employees
One of the biggest things that you can do to protect your company’s data is to take the time to make sure that your staff is familiar with, and understands the importance of, your company’s security policies. The fact is that your employees are your company’s first line of defense, and even with the right security measures in place, you could be subject to a data breach if an employee makes a mistake or does not follow security protocols. It is then important that you provide regular training to update your staff on security policy and make sure that they are familiar with steps that they can take to keep company data secure. Make sure to foster an environment of learning where employees can ask questions, as they may not realize how a seemingly simple action, such as opening an unknown link in an email, could put your company at risk.
Be Smart About Passwords
An easy data protection step that every small business should be taking is to properly safeguard, and frequently change, secure passwords. While you have likely heard this a thousand times, it is important to reiterate how critical it is to enforce safe password practices. All staff should be encouraged/required to use strong passwords that contain at least 8 characters that are a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. Common passwords such as your company name, your birthday, or even “password” can make you an easy target for cybercriminals, putting your company at risk. Enforcing effective password policies is a simple yet effective way to help keep your most sensitive data secure. While it may not be popular with your staff, requiring password changes every 90 days is a great way to increase your data protection. For highly sensitive data, you should also require multi-factor authentication at all times.
Encryption is Key
Part of what makes small business owners such an easy target for data breaches is due to a lack of proper encryption. However, the days when encryption was only used in certain circumstances, such as when handling extremely sensitive data, are long gone. It should now be your company’s standard practice for any kind of personal information and sensitive data to be encrypted. This includes both at-rest data stored on your physical servers as well as in-transit data being transmitted to and from cloud services. You should also be using your router’s strongest encryption settings in order to protect your wireless network against potential hackers. Finally, you can protect your company by only accessing websites with an HTTPS protocol. HTTPS websites are encrypted in order to increase the security of data transfer, making them ideal for transferring secure information.
Consider a Dedicated Server
As the owner of a small business, you may find yourself cutting corners where possible in order to save money. One common way that businesses do this is by using a shared server, as this can significantly reduce costs; however, doing so can come with major security risks as you will be sharing your server with other sites. While a high-quality hosting company will have strict measures in place to protect data on shared servers, there is still an inherent risk that if another site on your shared server is compromised that this could ultimately affect your company’s security as well. While dedicated servers are more expensive, they provide added layers of protection to you and your clients that can help to keep your company’s data safe. While you will have to weigh the pros and cons of investing in a dedicated server, doing so can be an important step in protecting your company from a costly data breach.
Have a Plan
Of course, the best way to ensure that your company’s data is protected is to work with a skilled IT firm. An IT professional can help you to create a plan to protect your data from a cyber-attack, and they can help you to create a plan of action so that you are prepared in the event of a data breach. One of the biggest benefits of working with an IT service is that IT professionals know what vulnerabilities hackers look for and exploit, and they can audit your system to search for weaknesses. They can then provide you with guidance on where changes need to be made in your system, helping to ensure that your business’s data is protected.
In order to prevent a costly data breach at your company, it is important that you take proactive steps to protect your business’s sensitive data. If you are unsure what steps you should take to protect your company against a potential cyber-attack, you may want to consider working with an IT Managed Service Provider (MSP). They can help you find vulnerabilities in your system and prepare a defense to protect your company’s data. Contact us to learn more about the services we provide and the benefits of partnering with an MSP for your company’s IT needs.